early 19th century
Between 1853 and 1855 Dadd painted "Sketches to Illustrate the Passions," a series of about thirty watercolors. The earliest use characters from Shakespeare to portray strong emotions, such as Jealousy and Hatred, and these were followed by genre-like images such as "Senility and Peevishness." We are shown two workmen buying and eating pasties outside a tavern watched by a brazier-keeper and barman. The inscribed title specifies the subject, and lettered signs advertize a range of alcohol on offer, but how the imagery illustrates the named passions remains mysterious. After demonstrating early artistic promise, and travelling to Greece and the Near East as draftsman to Sir Thomas Phillips in 1842, Dadd succumbed to paranoid schizophrenia and murdered his father. Confined to psychiatric institutions from 1843, he continued painting and left a large oeuvre that escaped significant notice until the 1960s. Today Dadd is regarded as a Victorian master whose enforced withdrawal from society allowed him to refine a unique talent. "Sketches to Illustrate the Passions" belongs to a long tradition of imagery devoted to human folly, even as its unsettling details, and reliance on memory and imagination anticipate modern sensibilities. Medium: watercolor on cream wove paper.
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